One of the most wonderful times of the year is approaching fast, and a lot of people are rushing to make sure they’re prepared. It won’t be long now: the start of ACC conference play is upon us.
It begins a week from Wednesday, on Dec. 30 – a little earlier than usual. Clemson plays at North Carolina at 7 p.m. And later that night Syracuse is at Pittsburgh in a classic old-Big-East-meets-new-ACC game.
And, oh yes, Christmas is about to be here, too. Which leads to a natural thought: What do you get someone who seems to have everything? Coaches in the ACC have jobs that pay millions. They have no shortage of decent suits. They own positions of prestige and power (sort of).
But they have wants and needs, too, especially when it comes to their teams. So in the spirit of holiday gift-giving, and receiving, here’s the definitive and official list (all others are imitations) of what would bring some cheer and merriment to each of the ACC’s 15 head coaches:
Boston College’s Jim Christian
Some pain relievers – perhaps Excedrin or Advil. And buy and give in bulk. Christian thanks you, because he’ll need some help getting through what’s likely to be a painful second season. The Eagles went 4-14 in league play last season, and that was with Olivier Hanlan. Off to a 5-6 start it doesn’t seem likely Boston College will improve in league play. Pass the Tylenol.
Clemson’s Brad Brownell
An offense. Too broad? Maybe. But let’s think big here. More than a month into the season, it looks like offense is back in the ACC. Seven league teams rank among the top 20 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com. Clemson is 110th (better than No. 275 Boston College). If the Tigers could just keep up offensively, they’d be formidable.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski
He has written several books about leadership but has he read a good one recently on the virtue of patience? Could be a good stocking stuffer and offer some worthy reminders this season, which isn’t too likely to be much like last season for the Blue Devils. The next few months are likely to test Krzyzewski’s patience in a way it hasn’t been in a while.
Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton
The lack of respect card. Hamilton had to put it away the past few years but the old one was probably bent and creased, anyway. Give him a new one. He’ll probably need it this season, what with the Seminoles, led by freshmen Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon, poised to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012. Just don’t be surprised when they do.
Georgia Tech’s Brian Gregory
Things to help him remember Atlanta – perhaps some framed photos of the skyline, maybe a gift certificate to one of the city’s finest restaurants. Gregory will appreciate it if this is his final season, and it could be unless the Yellow Jackets show dramatic improvement. A loss to a bad East Tennessee State team, and a 14-point loss to so-so Georgia, suggest more of the same.
Louisville’s Rick Pitino
Is there anything on the market these days to help a guy through a scandal that will hang over a program like a dark cloud? If so it’d be the hottest gift in the ACC. Roy Williams could have used it. Jim Boeheim, too. The Cardinals are playing well on the court but they’ll continue to be hounded by the uncertainty off of it amid a scandal that involves allegedly hiring prostitutes and strippers for recruits.
Miami’s Jim Larranaga
More points from Sheldon McClellan, the senior guard. He scored 24 during a recent victory against Florida, and now the Hurricanes are 10-0 all-time when McClellan scores at least 18 points. With McClellan and guards Angel Rodriguez and Ja’Quan Newton, Miami boasts one of the best backcourts in the ACC.
North Carolina’s Roy Williams
Good health. First Williams and his team had to adapt to the loss of Marcus Paige, who missed the Tar Heels’ first six games while recovering from a broken hand. Now Kennedy Meeks is out with a bruised bone in his knee. UNC has played all but three games with its full allotment of players, and one of those was the two-point loss at Texas.
N.C. State’s Mark Gottfried
Good help. The Wolfpack has seven healthy scholarship players, and that includes Cody Martin, who played 21 minutes in a victory at Missouri on Saturday despite entering the game questionable after an ankle injury. A scary thing for the Wolfpack: Cat Barber is averaging 38.1 minutes per game. Fine, perhaps, in December but what about when it’s mid-February?
Notre Dame’s Mike Brey
A 2014-15 season highlight tape. That was fun last year, wasn’t it? Jerian Grant. Pat Connaughton. A lot of highlights and memories, and an ACC championship. The Fighting Irish should make the NCAA tournament again this season, but the next few months aren’t likely to replicate the magic Brey and his team experienced a year ago.
Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon
The motivation to finish. The Panthers lost their final three games of the regular-season last year – all by single digits – to finish 8-10 in the ACC. Then they lost their next two games to finish the season on a five-game losing streak. The Panthers could well find themselves in a similar position in early March – on the tournament bubble, needing a strong finish.
Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim
How about a nice new recliner? Boeheim’s nine-game suspension started earlier this month and he’ll only miss three ACC games instead of nine, as the NCAA Committee on Infractions had earlier ruled. Nonetheless, he should be able to take in these games in comfort and though he’ll back sooner than expected, think of the chair as something of an investment.
Virginia’s Tony Bennett
A new hardware shelf. You hate to be presumptuous during the holiday season but this could come in handy for Bennett, whose team has as good of a shot as any to win the ACC title. And more, possibly. Virginia leads the league in offensive efficiency, is second in defensive efficiency and has two of the ACC’s best non-conference wins, against West Virginia and Villanova.
Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams
Some shiny new tools. Perhaps not the most practical gift but plenty symbolic, given the task ahead of Williams. He’s trying to build something in Blacksburg but it’ll simply take a while. After finishing 2-16 in the ACC last year there’s nowhere to go but up, and the good news is that four of the top six players are either freshmen or sophomores.
Wake Forest’s Danny Manning
Spare axles and reinforcements. Just in case the bandwagon starts filling back up. And after wins against Indiana and UCLA, who knows – Wake, led by senior forward Devin Thomas, looks capable of surprising people. Temper expectations but the Demon Deacons have a chance to be the ACC’s most improved team in Manning’s second season.
So there you have it: the holiday gift-giving guide for ACC coaches. As always, though, gift receipts are recommended.